Mears Connect, the spiritual successor to Disney’s Magical Express, is accepting reservations. This post covers pricing, hotels serviced by the shuttle, transportation options, and everything we know now that the new bus routes between Orlando International Airport and Walt Disney World area resorts have started service! (Updated February 2, 2022.)
Mears Connect is one of the options, and it’s actually a shuttle service by the same company that operated Disney’s Magical Express. In fact, Mears Connect literally uses the exact same drivers and buses, just minus the Disney-branded wraps. Some of the buses look very similar to the old ‘ocean-liner’ DME buses, with only Disney logos and characters removed.
Mears Connect is now operating, promising provide fast and convenient transportation service for visitors in high occupancy vehicles, thereby reducing traffic and lowering environmental impacts. Guests can expect scheduled service, luggage handling, convenient airport terminal staging, and return trips from resorts to the airport.
The company advertises Mears Connect as the “same reliable, safe service guests have been using for decades to Disney area hotels. Service is now available as of 2022.
Here are some of the benefits of Mears Connect:
I don’t know about you, but I’m most looking forward to the “arrival souvenir.” Here’s hoping for Alf Pogs!
Mears Connect has two options: Standard and Express. Pricing could vary depending on date and hotel, but the introductory rate (available for a limited amount of time according to the press release from Mears) on the standard service is $16 for adults and $13.50 for children for a one-way trip or $32 for adults and $27 for children for round trips.
The Standard level of service is a shared ride service on Mears Connect (bus or van) that is economical. The Connection will make a limited number of stops and will have you on your way to your resort within 20 minutes of your check-in to the Mears Connect reception area. The Premium level is a direct service with limited to no wait time. Both include all tolls and other surcharges.
February 2, 2022 UPDATE: Mears Connect quietly removed the “within 20 minutes” language with the strikethrough above from its site. This comes as many guests complained of longer wait times for departure, with many Walt Disney World fans on social media saying 30-45 minutes has been the norm for them.
This is not a huge surprise, as waits longer than 20 minutes occurred with Disney’s Magical Express. Our suspicion is that service will get worse, not better, without Disney offering “oversight” to the transportation offering. Mears doesn’t exactly have a reputation for sterling service, and guests likely benefited from contractual requirements and Disney’s monitoring.
Unfortunately, this will likely only get worse now that the Sunshine Flyer has launched. That will dilute the guest pool for each service, and Mears might be disinclined to dispatch buses that aren’t a certain percentage full, as it’s less profitable to do so. We plan on doing a head-to-head test of both services and will have reviews very soon.
Additionally, premium Service’s round-trip price has already increased to $250. While we haven’t used the Premium Service, we suspect you can do better price and service-wise by hiring a private car or limo. See our Airport Transportation Guide for more info & recommendations.
In addition to that pricing update, we also headed out to Orlando International Airport recently to check out the Mears Connect terminal, check-in process, and motor coaches.
If familiarity is of paramount importance, Mears Connect should be your shuttle service of choice when flying into MCO and staying at one of the resorts below near Walt Disney World. This is literally the spiritual successor to Disney’s Magical Express in every regard–right down to its location on Side B.
The check-in process is incredibly simple, with guests arriving at this kiosk and scanning a QR code in their email and then being assigned to one of the lanes behind the podium. From there, guests are assigned to buses based on demand and locations.
Here’s one of the Mears Connect buses outside in the loading area.
When were here, everything was being done incredibly efficiently with no line whatsoever for the check-in podium and minimal wait to board a bus. With that said, there were times when Disney’s Magical Express was equally efficient, and other times when the lines stretched through the terminal. It’s impossible to judge this service based on one experience–the true test will be during a peak travel time, and this was not.
In pricing out Mears Connect, I searched for a variety of hotels and travel dates, including peak season (e.g. Easter, Presidents’ Day, Mardi Gras) and the pricing was the same for all dates and hotel combinations. Presumably, the introductory rate is across-the-board pricing and it’ll increase and vary along with the popularity of the service.
For some guests, Mears Connect will be perfect. However, in the “age of Uber,” that seems like a limited audience. Basically, people who have heard horror stories about ridesharing services and fear them as a result. That makes me wonder how much prices can actually increase from here.
For solo travelers or couples, the math works out on Mears Connect. It’s going to be slightly cheaper than Uber or Lyft transportation between the hotel and airport most of the time. However, the convenience, efficiency, and private ride offered by Uber or Lyft mean we’d take one of those ridesharing services over Mears Connect every single time. (Then again, we frequently took Uber over using Disney’s Magical Express even before this.)
For families with small children, Mears Connect might be a great option as it avoids hassles with car seats and provides more convenient transportation. For groups with only older kids or adults, the economics of Mears Connect won’t work out. Even if they’re unconcerned about convenience or efficiency, Uber or Lyft will win handily on cost.
For others, a rental car will make more sense. As with anything, there are undoubtedly additional personal considerations we aren’t taking into account in the Uber/Lyft v. Mears Connect v. rental car comparison. Your mileage may vary.
With that said, let’s take a look at hotels at and around Walt Disney World that will be serviced by Mears Connect…
ELIGIBLE DISNEY OWNED HOTELS (SPOILER: IT’S ALL OF THEM)
Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort
Disney’s All-Star Music Resort
Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort
Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
Disney’s Pop Century Resort
Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort & Gran Destino Tower
Disney’s Port Orleans Resort — French Quarter
Disney’s Port Orleans Resort — Riverside
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
Disney’s Beach Club Resort
Disney’s BoardWalk Inn
Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge (Listed as Fort Wilderness Lodge on the site)
Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas — Kidani Village
Disney’s Old Key West Resort
Disney’s Riviera Resort
Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
ELIGIBLE ON-SITE THIRD PARTY HOTELS
Signia by Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek
Waldorf Astoria Orlando
JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort
Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek
B Resort & Spa Lake Buena Vista
Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace
Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista
Holiday Inn Orlando
Wyndham Lake Buena Vista
Four Seasons Resort Orlando
Shades of Green
Walt Disney World Swan Hotel
Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel
Walt Disney World Swan Reserve (Listed as “the Reserve”)
Eligible Off-Site Hotels
Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center
Orlando Marriott World Center
You can view pricing, FAQ, other info, and book reservations for Mears Connect here.
As we’ve been saying for a while, Walt Disney World’s on-site advantage is disappearing. This should be yet another reason to look at third party hotels before booking your 2022 Walt Disney World vacation. Some of the on-site options, like the Swan & Dolphin, Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace, Waldorf Astoria, Signia by Hilton, JW Marriott, and others–offering considerably better value for money, superior amenities, and nicer accommodations than what you’ll get for the same price from Disney-owned hotels.
Ultimately, we think it’s great that Mears will continue offering transportation between Walt Disney World and area hotels. Meas Connect serves an important role for many guests; it’s good to see that the service is now operating smoothly and without any major issues.
As we’ve said since Walt Disney World announced the end of Magical Express, we maintain that this is an incredibly shortsighted and guest unfriendly decision that will have unforeseen negative long-term consequences for Disney. No point rehashing all of that here, though. Kudos to Mears for continuing the service in spirit–it’s not their fault that Disney discontinued Magical Express.
What do you think of Mears Connect? Will you use the service, or is it too expensive for shared transportation? Will you opt for Mears Connect over Uber, Lyft, or renting a car? Thoughts on pricing, efficiency, or anything else regarding Mears Connect? What do you think about Walt Disney World ending Disney’s Magical Express? Other thoughts on this? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!